Still injured, Robles running out of time to return in 2023

Victor Robles wandered through the Nationals clubhouse Wednesday afternoon, a familiar face but in many ways a forgotten one.

It’s been nearly two months since Robles last played, and he has appeared in only five games since early May, a persistent back injury having sidelined him for the better part of the season now. And given the lack of progress he’s made to date, time may be running out for him to make it back in 2023.

“I worry that we’re definitely getting closer to … I mean, he’s still got to go out and rehab,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s got to play. He’s missed a lot. But hopefully we can get him playing again before this year’s up. That will be the goal.”

Robles initially hurt himself sliding into second base on May 6 in Arizona and spent the next six weeks on the injured list. His return to the active roster was short-lived, with only five games played in mid-June before it became clear he wasn’t fully healthy yet and needed to go back on the IL.

The 26-year-old has split his time between D.C. and West Palm Beach, Fla., getting treatment and doing what he can to try to get better. But it’s still an extremely limited rehab program.

“This back thing, it’s been a big issue for him,” Martinez said. “He’s doing some agility stuff, very light. Some light running. Still no baseball activity. He’s just kind of progressing slowly. But I want to make sure he’s 100 percent.”

After multiple disappointing seasons that lowered his once sky-high stock, Robles actually has played good baseball when he’s been healthy enough to play this year. He still owns a .299 batting average, .385 on-base percentage and .750 OPS that outpaces anything he has produced since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 2019.

But that feels like a distant memory at this point. And even if he returns to full health over the winter, it’s possible the Nationals will no longer have room for Robles next spring if any combination of top outfield prospects James Wood, Dylan Crews and Robert Hassell III looks ready to debut.

How’s Robles dealing with this interminable rehab process?

“He’s great. He’s awesome,” Martinez said. “He wants to play. He’s frustrated, but he understands. He’s cheering for his teammates. He’s been here, working really hard to try to get better. But there’s only so much he can do. It’s just got to heal.”

* CJ Abrams is not in the lineup this afternoon, but there’s nothing physically wrong with the young shortstop, Martinez insisted. Abrams did come out of Sunday’s game early with back spasms, only to watch his teammates produce a six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Athletics, but he played all of Tuesday and Wednesday’s game with no apparent issues.

Having already faced one left-hander in James Paxton on Wednesday, Abrams will sit today against Red Sox lefty Chris Sale.

“Just a scheduled day off for him with the lefty,” Martinez said. “I wanted to give him a day. He’s been doing really well for us.”

* The Nationals will stick with their six-man rotation through the weekend. Joan Adon, who has dealt with leg cramps in his last two starts, will return to the mound Friday night to face the Phillies. Jake Irvin starts Saturday, with Trevor Williams named the starter for Sunday night’s MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa.

That would leave the same three starters from this series against the Red Sox (Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Patrick Corbin) on track to face the Yankees next week, provided Gore has no lingering issues with the blister that brought an abrupt halt to his dominant start Wednesday night.

“We’re keeping an eye on MacKenzie,” Martinez said. “Hopefully we can get him to heal quickly. But he’s got time.”

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